Make It Yourself...Vinaigrette Salad Dressings

At its simplest, a vinaigrette salad dressing contains an acid—either vinegar or citrus juice—salt, and oil.  Vinaigrettes need to be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  A glass jar with a lid is perfect.
When you know your ratio of acid to oil, you don't need a recipe. The traditional formula is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, but this varies depending on the acid used and your personal taste. Many people prefer a 1 to 2 ratio of acid to oil.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice is often used in place of vinegar, but it's slightly more acidic than some vinegars, so it may require a bit more oil.  Many vinaigrettes include a combination of vinegar and lemon juice.
Salt is important for flavor.
Oil and vinegar or lemon juice naturally want to be separate, but they are perfect when they're emulsified in a salad dressing. There are two common emulsifiers:
Mustard: A prepared mustard, such as Dijon, mixed with the acid will help a vinaigrette emulsify when the oil is slowly incorporated. Use a minimum of 1 teaspoon mustard for each tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice; the more mustard used, the better the emulsion will be, but be aware that the dressing will also be thicker.
Garlic: Mashed roasted garlic or fresh garlic paste (made by mashing garlic with salt in a mortar and pestle or by mincing and mashing the combination with a heavy knife) can help bring a dressing together. Garlic's flavor is best when fresh, and its pungency tends to increase a bit over time, so if you plan to keep leftovers, go easy on the fresh garlic.
Additional emulsifiers include purchased anchovy paste (in Caesar dressing), honey, and molasses.
Sweeteners such as sugar, honey, or maple syrup are optional, but a little can help round out the sharpness of lemon juice or more acidic vinegars. A lightly sweetened dressings usually need less oil to achieve a balance of flavors. 
For Variety
One of the simplest ways to change the flavor of basic vinaigrette is to use different oils or acids.
• Season with spices such as freshly ground black pepper, smoked paprika, or toasted and coarsely crushed cumin seed, fennel seed, celery seed or coriander seed.
• Incorporate fresh flavors including chopped tomato, grated onion, or finely grated fresh ginger—you can also use any juice squeezed from these.
• Stir in one or more chopped fresh herbs. Tarragon and thyme, mint and basil, cilantro and dill. and chives and parsley go well with any dressing.
• Bump up a lemon-juice-based vinaigrette by adding fresh citrus zest.
• Incorporate grated or crumbled cheese, such as Parmesan, feta, or blue cheese. Use a whisk if you prefer a chunkier texture or a blender for a smooth one.
• Season your dressing with kitchen condiments such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, chili sauce or steak sauce.
Our favorite vinaigrette is Myrna’s recipe for Italian Dressing.
Most salad dressings are simple to make and the older and some of the newer cookbooks have good recipes for them. The best thing is that you can make as much as you need and not have a lot of leftover bottles in your refrigerator.
Italian Dressing
1 cup Salad Oil 
1/4 cup good vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (this is powder not yellow mustard out of the jar)
1 clove garlic. minced
dash Tabasco
Combine ingredients in a jar, cover and shake well.

This dressing is good for marinating vegetables and to dress potato or pasta salads before adding mayonnaise too.  Much better than purchased dressings.

Sue’s family loves this Honey Mustard Dressing so much it’s their “House Dressing”…
Make extra dressing, it keeps well, and folks come back for more - it's my husband's favorite.  It works equally well on fruit or vegetable salads.
Honey Mustard Cider Dressing                      
     1/2     Cup  Olive or Salad Oil
     1/3     Cup  Honey (or Sugar)
  1            Green Onion -- chopped
  3            Tablespoons  Cider Vinegar
  2            Tablespoons  Prepared Mustard
     1/2      Teaspoon  Celery Seeds
Dressing:  Process all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.  This helps it emulsify and get nice and thick.  Cover  and chill 30 minutes.  Yields: about 1 cup.
8 Servings
Cost for salad dressing:  $1.14 for 10 ounces


  1. Why do these need to be keep refrigerated when they were invented, made and used long before refrigeration? Just asking.

    1. Once you add emulsifiers and other ingredients like onion or garlic, refrigeration is probably a good idea. We keep dressings in the refrigerator for a week or 10 days.
      The plainest oil and vinegar with a little salt doesn't need refrigeration; but it usually isn't made up ahead of time either, but combined at the table.


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